LSU Game Review

Saturday night in Tuscaloosa was truly a Bama fans’ Dixieland Delight!  The crowd was raucous, screaming “We will, we will ROCK YOU!  ROCK YOU!” as LSU huddled during a timeout, desperately trying to figure out how to convert a 4th and 13 at the Alabama 21 yard line.  LSU’s Odell Beckham’s 82 yard kick off return threatened to cut a 14 point Bama lead in half, but the Bama crowd wouldn’t hear of it.  Actually, no one could hear of it because the crowd noise was that deafening.  LSU’s timeout was the result of miscommunication at the line of scrimmage where the ball was actually snapped while Zack Mettenberger was calling a frustrated time out.  Meanwhile the fans chanted “WE WILL, WE WILL ROCK YOU!  ROCK YOU!”  On the next play, a wild throw from Mettenberger floated harmlessly thru the end zone and the place went nuts.  It was an electric ending imposed by 103,000 volts that put Les Miles and his team in the Bryant-Denny electric chair.  It was a play and a night that was oh, so right…

During the long TV timeout that followed, the fans enjoyed the most awesome rendition of Dixieland Delight that’s ever been played in the stadium.  The crowd swayed and sang along while the Bama players celebrated removing the manhood of the Bengal Tigers.  LSU hollered ‘neath a mountain moonlight (Roll Tide) as Alabama’s offensive line and backs hammered the Tigers’ defense (all night!) into submission.  It was the perfect victory and for anyone there it will forever be a night that transformed Bryant-Denny stadium into the most fan interactive game in history.  Fits my life.  Oh so right.  My Dixieland Delight.

Alabama on Offense

While Alabama got off to a slow start at the beginning of the game, they did give a preview of things to come during the first drive of the game.  Yeldon for 13.  Yeldon for 8.  Even at the beginning of the game, LSU had no answer for Alabama’s running game.  But, with Alabama struggling to convert third downs against the LSU defense, AJ McCarron and OJ Howard decided to break the touchdown drought with a score on first down.  The 52 yard touchdown catch and run still has me shaking my head in disbelief.  That score seemed to be the equivalent of taking the lid off of a basket as suddenly the offense began making plays on the ground and thru the air.  We told you in the W2W4 that LSU was awful against the run and in the second half Alabama’s offensive line asserted their will against the hapless Tigers.  Consecutive touchdown drives of 14 and 10 plays consumed 13 minutes of clock time and the hearts and the souls of the LSU defenders.  For all of the love and awe of the hurry up, no huddle offenses around the country, Nick Saban showed that an effective ground game can evaporate your will to defend just as effectively (if not more so).  On Saturday night at halftime, Nick asked his offense to man up and that’s just what they did.  Now the Lighthouse will try to man up talk about a few things we noticed while Bama was on offense.  Again, if you read the W2W4, Alabama’s domination on offense was no surprise.

Let’s Hear It For the Boy:  ESPN’s Gameday did a fantastic piece on McCarron and showed a play where the entire offensive team expected a running play against Tennessee and instead AJ threw a pass.  With no time to audible, AJ saw the outside linebacker crashing and he knew he had one on one on the outside with Amari Cooper so he made a sight adjustment and completed a quick wide receiver screen.  The result was that Cooper raced 54 yards for a touchdown.  How do you quantify that?  How do you explain this ability to Heisman voters?  Folks, we need to appreciate this ability.  Saturday night LSU showed blitz while corner Jalen Mills (more on him in a sec) was more than 12 yards off of DeAndrew White.  With everyone else executing a running play, AJ quickly fired out a pass to White for a 12 yard gainer.  AJ is pretty special and it’s these little things he does that makes Saban jump into his arms at the end of games.  Boy, was that an awesome scene or what?

Oh Yes They Call Him the Streak:  Speaking of special, have you ever seen a tight end catch a 12 yard pass and outrace an entire secondary into the end zone?  Well, I guess now you have!  I had an excellent view of Howard as he caught the pass and ran across the middle of the field.  The safety had the angle on him and looked as though he’d hold OJ to a 20 yard gain but Howard ran past him like he was standing still.  Then the LSU corner had a shot to run him down but, instead, Howard ran away from him, too.  At 6-6, 240 that’s insane.  For you guys who don’t care to follow recruiting, Howard was a five-star recruit.  Now you know why it matters to reel in these freakish five-star athletes.  And while we applaud him for his ability as a receiver, his ability as a blocker is nearly as good.  If you still have the game on tape, watch Howard’s blocking.  He was exceptional.  After the game, Saban said it’s his ability as a blocker that is allowing Howard to get on the field more.  He’s going to be a ridiculous weapon…

Wide Open Spaces:  The play design that freed OJ Howard was some kind of awesome.  With Vogler and two wide receivers lined up to the left, Howard lined up at the end of the line on the right side.  All three receivers in the trips formation ran 5 yard in routes which made the LSU secondary fly up to the line to cover them.  OJ Howard ran a post route behind them and was wide open.

Missing You:  As good as AJ was, he missed on some uncharacteristic throws on the evening.  He missed Howard, Jones, Bell and Cooper with some long throws he usually completes (including the first ever miss on the flea flicker to Bell).  Before the game I was told that AJ is nursing an injury and these misses seemed to support that.  That’s all I’ll say about that – it’s a situation that bears monitoring.

Who Are You:  Quiz time, people.  Name the two players who lead Alabama in touchdown receptions.  Many of you might get Kevin Norwood right.  How many of you would get Jalston Fowler?  They have four each.  Boom.  Mind…blown.

What a Mighty Good Man:  Arie Kouandjio played the game of his life.  He was matched up on LSU beasty Ego Ferguson and Arie absolutely removed LSU’s Ego from the game.  I guess you could say he was an Ego-maniac.  Total and complete domination here by big Arie K – his best game as a Tider.

You Are the Weakest Link:  Alabama attacked #28 Jalen Mills all night long.  On Howard’s touchdown, it was Mills who was torched in coverage.  On Norwood’s touchdown, Mills was again in coverage.  Cooper beat Mills multiple times, as well.  Mills was also horrific in run support.  He’s not having a good day in the film room, I assure you.

Did You See:  A large part of Alabama’s game plan was focused on moving their tight ends and running backs out wide, where LSU shifted their corners outside to cover them.  This left Alabama’s slot receivers matched against the woeful safeties and linebackers and they were exposed badly.  Also, as we pointed out in the W2W4, Alabama successfully ran out of their spread formation.  You can see this on Yeldon’s 9 yard run to the 1 yard line.  With Bama in a four wide receiver set, LSU split their linebackers out wide, leaving the middle wide open.  Bama’s o-line dominated the front four while Ryan Kelly (who played his best game of his career) released and took out one of the linebackers, creating a massive hole.

Tide Bits

  • Alabama ran plays out of their 2 tight end formation on 17 of 24 plays in the second half.  (FYI – we didn’t count any short yardage situations)
  • In the second half the Tide ran the ball 24 times and passed only 7 times.
  • AJ’s pass to Amari Cooper for 13 yards was the first real third down conversion of the game.  Technically it was the third conversion on 3rd down – the first was via pass interference and the second was converting a 3rd and 1.  From that point on, Bama was 3 for 3 on third downs.
  • The one sack Bama gave up was on a naked bootleg that left LSU defensive end Jamaria Rasco unblocked.

Alabama on Defense

The matchup against LSU’s offense was the most fascinating part of the game.  With two outstanding wide receivers in Beckham and Landry, the Tide had to honor their abilities by providing their corners with safety help.  However, if Alabama committed their safeties to stop the pass, that left the running game wide open.  In the first half, Alabama kept their safeties back for the most part and LSU took advantage by rushing for 64 yards.   The Tiger backs continually bounced outside of Alabama’s defense, getting to the edge that was no longer protected by the Tide safeties.  In the second half, Alabama played more aggressively, blitzing CJ Mosley up the middle and bringing creative blitzes off the edge.  This left the Tide corners alone with the LSU receivers.  It was a calculated gamble but one that certainly paid off in the end.

MVP:  Prior to the game, we didn’t think CJ Mosley would find himself in a position to make plays against LSU.  Obviously, we were a little mistaken on that one – especially since Mosley was named as the SEC defensive player of the week!  Last year, Mosley was held out of the regular defensive formations due to his lack of size so it was assumed he’d have trouble taking on the gigantic LSU fullbacks.  In fact, in head to head matchups Saturday night, he was successful in shedding the fullback only two times out of five meetings.  But, what was truly impressive was the fact that he ONLY had to take them on five times.  Instead of keeping Mosley back and putting him in the path of the fullbacks, the Bama staff sent him downhill numerous times where he either blew up the play or stuffed a running lane.  Later in the game, Mosley faked the interior rush and dropped into a passing lane on a critical third and 13.  Mosley was awesome and owned the Tigers all night long.

Livin’ on the Edge:  Early in the game, Hill and McGee were able to successfully bounce outside of Alabama’s containment on the edge, picking up chunks of yardage.  In the second half, Bama moved their safeties up and Adrian Hubbard also did a much better job stringing out the outside runs, limiting the Tigers to seven rushes for 10 measly yards.  Four of the seven rushes gained one yard or less

Man in the Middle:  Brandon Ivory absolutely destroyed LSU’s center all night long.  Ivory’s ability in the middle allowed Bama to play a 4-3 defense with their three linebackers stacked several yards off the line of scrimmage.  This was something completely different that I haven’t seen the Tide do in other games and they could only do this because of the job Ivory (and Pagan) were doing up front.  They kept the line busy and allowed the Bama linebackers the chance to flow and fill gaps.  But, Ivory was particularly dominant up front.

One on One, I Want to Play That Game Tonight:  How about Landon Collins?  He was awesome in one on one situations where he and Jeremy Hill matched up against each other in space.  Collins was also superb in pass coverage.  Very, very impressive.

Welcome to the Party, Pal:  What a time for a Tana Patrick sighting, eh?  The rarely used and even more rarely heard from senior made the defensive play of the game when he stripped big JC Copeland of the football at the goal line.  Copeland was surely going to truck Patrick into next week but Patrick had the presence of mind to strip the football instead of taking him head on.  The new legend of Tana Patrick…

Oops I Did It Again:  Alabama is still looking for Jeremy Hill in pass coverage.  Hill actually ended up with as many receptions and more yardage as Odell Beckham.  That deserves a wow, eh?

Time Out:  LSU emptied their backfield and motioned Hill out as a wide receiver and this caused confusion in the Tide secondary late in the first half.  When Hill motioned and the Bama defense didn’t adjust, Kirby Smart tried to call time out but he was too late.  The coverage was blown and Jarvis Landry was left wide open in the secondary.  At halftime, Coach Saban said they talked about this and made some adjustments and, sure enough, when LSU did this in the second half a Bama linebacker shifted out in coverage with him.  This stopped the play cold.

Double Trouble:  As Gary Danielson illustrated on a couple of plays, when Alabama played coverage they doubled both Beckham and Landry with safety help.  This left the LSU tight ends and backs typically open underneath but, as we mentioned prior to the game, 70% of Mettenberger’s passes either went to Beckham or Landry so this was the right way to game plan.  LSU backs and tight ends actually accounted for six of the 16 receptions on the night – highly preferable to Landry or Beckham doing the damage.

Decisive Series:  After a Beckham kick return set up LSU on the Bama 18 yard line, the Tigers were poised to cut the Bama lead from 14 to 7.  But, with the crowd noise behind them, the Tide defense rose to the occasion.  Here’s the sequence:

  • 1st and 10 at the UA 18:  Hill takes a handoff and bounces outside yet again.  This time, Hubbard strings the play out, allowing Collins and Mosley to stop him for a three yard loss.  Huge play here.
  • 2nd and 13 at the UA 21:  Mettenberger had a good pocket and fired a pass to Landry who appeared to have beaten the corner.  However, Collins was double covering Landry and he broke on the pass and knocked it away.  Great coverage and great play by Collins – a near recreation of the pick six he had against Tennessee.
  • 3rd and 13 at the UA 21:  Alabama again showed a middle blitz with Mosley who’s been blitzing from here all night long.  This time he faked the blitz and dropped right into the passing lane.  Geno Smith and Jarrick Williams did blitz off the edge and forced the quick throw that Mosley knocked away.
  • 4th and 13 at the UA 21:  The crowd noise was so deafening that LSU had to call timeout prior to this play.  Again, Alabama showed blitz but this time they only rushed four and played coverage.  As the CBS cameras showed, no one was open on the play and the pass landed harmlessly incomplete.  Had Landry caught it, he was ineligible since Smith expertly guided him out-of-bounds on his route.  Here endeth the threat, the drive and the game.

Here Comes the Pain:  You almost felt sorry for Mettenberger as he crawled off the field towards the sidelines like a nearly slain character in some horror flick.  On four consecutive plays his body was treated like Waffle House hashbrowns – scattered, covered, smothered, chunked and peppered.  Denzell Devall started the fun with a strong pressure and a sack.  Next came a Jeoffrey Pagan slam when he easily beat the guard off the line of scrimmage.  Facing a third and 17, Bama cruelly blitzed Cyrus Jones, battering Mettenberger again for a 10 yard loss.  Then on fourth down, Adrian Hubbard shoved the LSU left tackle back into Mettenberger, leaving him crawling around helplessly on the ground.

Alabama on Special Teams

Clearly the play that turned the game around was the fake punt that was superbly executed.  LSU had scored on two straight drives so Bama needed a spark.  At first, LSU lined up with seven men across the line of scrimmage but, after a timeout, they trotted out a five man front that made the play possible.  As Mosley handed off to Williams, Tana Patrick and Yeldon double teamed the outside rusher while Dillon Lee helped double teamed the edge.  This created a huge crease that allowed Williams to easily pick up the first down.  Who would have guessed that it would be Nick “The Mad Hatter” Saban calling for the fake punt?

Also, credit continues to go out to Cade Foster who is now 9 of 10  on field goals for the season.  Had he missed the 41 yarder in the first quarter, we could have had a “here we go again” scenario.  But, Foster banged home a three pointer and all was well and confident with the kicking game.

Finally, I felt like the defensive secondary would be able to get by without Vinnie Sunseri and I think they have actually played better than when he was in there.  I really like Landon Collins in coverage much better than I liked Vinnie back there.  However, were Sunseri is missed the most is on special teams and I think that was extremely evident Saturday night.

Final Thoughts

How fantastic was it to watch Alabama absolutely destroy the LSU defense?   LSU has been the one team who can historically stand up to the size and strength of the Alabama lines but on Saturday night they simply could not.  The Tigers’ defense ain’t what she used to be and on Saturday night they absolutely got bent over by the Bama offensive line.  Credit the Bama linemen for coming together and becoming a wrecking ball that even Miley Cyrus would be envious of.  On a night when AJ appeared to be just a little off, it was nice to be able to pound the rock with Yeldon and Drake and grind the Tigers into submission.  Also, you have to applaud the play designs that isolated Jalen Mills all night long and took advantage of his issues in the secondary.  Brilliant game planning by the staff.

On defense, you have to love the second half adjustments that Kirby Smart and the defensive staff made.  They brought blitzes and decided that if Mettenberger was going to beat them, he was going to pay for it with pain.  He did.  Meanwhile, they mixed up their coverages enough to limit the fearsome duo of Landry and Beckham to only 8 catches.  No one in the country has held them down like Alabama did and it was truly impressive when you realize that the Tide did this with two very undervalued and undersized corners.

It was a fantastic night for everyone in Crimson and a significant statement to the rest of the country.  Alabama’s offensive line and secondary were both thought to be flawed but on Saturday night they were the Tide’s own little Dixieland Delight.


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